A ‘game-changer’ measure that seeks to regulate vapes and heated tobacco products is a step closer to becoming a law after both the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the vape bill.
Only the signature of the President is needed to make it a legacy law that will provide more than 16 million Filipino smokers who could not quit smoking cigarettes less harmful options.
“This is a game-changer,” said Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing, a long-time health advocate.
“Years from now when our country is rid of the smoking menace, we will look back at this Congress for starting the journey towards a smoke-free Philippines,” said Suansing, one of the authors of the Vaporized Nicotine Product (VNP) bill in the Lower House.
The House of Representatives ratified the reconciled version of the VNP bill on Wednesday, a day after the same Senate action.
House Deputy Speaker and SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta described the vape bill as one of the most effective anti-smoking laws passed.
“I congratulate my colleagues in Congress for the passage and approval of House Bill No. 9007 and Senate Bill No. 2239. While not a smoker myself, I understand the importance of providing the adult smoking population with viable alternatives that are, as stated by the WHO (World Health Organization) representative in our hearings in the lower house, less harmful when compared to cigarettes,” said Marcoleta.
“As seen in other countries, smoke-free alternatives significantly contributed to the drop in the number of smokers. This is our gift, our legacy to the Filipino people- a pathway to a Philippine society without cigarettes,” he said.
Marcoleta said that once signed into law, the government will be able to properly regulate the sale and use of these products and provide a new revenue stream for government coffers.
“This will be one of the most effective anti-smoking law passed. As seen in other countries, smoke-free alternatives significantly contributed to the drop in the number of smokers. This is our gift, our legacy to the Filipino people,” said Marcoleta.
With the ratification of the measure by both chambers, the enrolled bill will be submitted for the approval and signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Consumer advocacy groups and prominent medical professionals earlier expressed their trust on the President to sign the Vape Bill into law to save millions of Filipino smokers from the adverse impact of smoking. They said the bill will also discourage youth from using these products.
AKO Bicol Party List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said there are provisions in the vape bill that protect minors.
“The vape bill is serious in preventing minors from getting these products. It provides penalties that are even stronger than the penalties imposed for violations of the tobacco law. Erring parties can be fined or imprisoned,” said Garbin.
The bill bans youth access to these products and prohibits advertisements targeting minors.
The use of vaporized nicotine products will be banned in schools, playgrounds, colleges, and universities.
It also restricts online sales and e-commerce platforms and prohibits the industry from contracting health professionals, celebrities, even social media influencers, to promote or encourage the use of these products.
The vape bill, as approved by the Bicameral Conference Committee, will help the 16 million Filipino smokers to access less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, according to Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Ace Barbers.
“This will also impose mandatory product standards to protect adult users, keep these away from minors, and help curb the smuggling of these products, ensuring that the right taxes are paid,” Barbers said.
Marcoleta said the penal provisions in the vape bill ensure that only adult smokers can purchase these products and that minors will not be given access to these products.
Manufacturers and importers are required to comply with mandatory standards and register their products with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) before introducing them in the market, according to the provisions of the bill.
The DTI Secretary is given the authority upon due process to order the recall, ban or seizure of unregistered products or to shut down non-compliant websites.
Under the bill, the DTI and the Food and Drug Administration are authorized to release mandatory product standards. Graphic health warnings will be imposed on the product packaging.
The bill is also expected to reduce illicit trade of these products and enable the Bureau of Internal Revenue to collect proper excise taxes.